Temperature sensitivity is an issue for many of us, as is high humidity. Some people cannot abide hot water on their skin, or feel uncomfortable in warm weather, but, I have found that, in the vast majority of cases, cold is a predominant issue.
As an ex-Naval man, my survival training has stayed with me and the best way to fight the cold is by ensuring that your upper body does not get cold because here is where the warmth is generated and spread to the lower extremities.
Clothing can help but the most important thing to do is ensure that you have enough fuel inside you to keep your body temperature at normal levels, so you must eat. No matter how much your stomach may be saying, "No!". Without fuel the extremities of your frame (hands and feet) are always going to feel cold and your pain levels, in my experience will be higher. If you cannot eat well then at least ensure that what you eat is good for you in this regard. Besides providing the building blocks against the cold we should all bear in mind that food also helps to keep our immune system in good health. Nobody wants to win the battle over pain only to fall prey to a virus or bacteria because their immune systems are down as a result of not eating.
Here are a couple of my personal food tips:
living in Scotland I find that a good bowl of porridge not only lines your stomach and therefore helps combat the toxicity of our pain medications, but, it does warm you through and continues to for some hours.
cereals are not just for breakfast, eating them with milk helps to lubricate a very dry mouth and I eat them at whatever time I feel that I can. If that happens to be midday or mid-night so be it, the milk also helps to line the stomach.
obviously meals such as soups or stews are all easier to consume and can warm you through.
use vitamin and mineral supplements to ensure that you maintain the right levels in your system. If you can eat nothing else you can take these in tablet form.
always have nutritious snacks to hand,
most doctors will also tell you that smoking subdues the appetite.
There are three jars next to my armchair and above my PC, and though these do contain my favourite sweets, they also contain some high energy bars and biscuits. This way if I do have sudden unannounced pangs of hunger I can sort it out straight away without having to wait for prepared food.
I don't know about some of you but I am not safe in the kitchen, hot pans and stuff - very dangerous. It is also true that half way through the preparation I feel queasy.
Another good tip is to try and ensure that high energy drinks are in the house and within reach. Sports drinks are great. The pain medication we all have to take do produce a dry mouth as an adverse reaction and whilst tea and coffee can do the job it is probably more beneficial to top up on vitamins and minerals these drinks contain.
Living on an island off the Scottish coast, we do get some extreme cold weather. The second weapon which arms us against the cold is obviously the way we dress. (Whilst we are on this subject most people also tell me that normal clothing became uncomfortable at best, tight clothing being the worst. This is also true for me but I would like to hear your thoughts on that as a separate issue.)
My clothing tips for *cold days are as follows:
wear as many layers on the upper half of your body as you find necessary, I usually have to have at least two, three in winter.
wear loose and warm materials, I wear track suit bottoms almost daily and have a growing collection of them. To make them look more respectable and acceptable in public you can take the elastic out of the legs and press them as you would trousers.
always ensure that you have adequate socks, the fleecy ones are best, and have a good warm pair of slippers for around the house,
in the depths of winter have a hat handy by. Many people do not realise that they can lose ninety percent of their body heat through the top of their head if it is exposed, so I am not shy about wearing a hat in the house if I need to.
buy tops, sweaters, jumpers, shirts, etc, that are also made of soft and warm fabrics. If that means waving goodbye to shirts so be it.
*my definition of a cold day, and probably yours too, does not have to be in winter or fall.
Some people have reported that they find that they have trouble maintaining a good body temperature when sat down to watch TV, converse, or operate the PC. I know I do. The rest of the household are warm as toast but I am freezing.
Lighting the fire or firing up the heating system is anti-social and costly. To overcome this I purchased an inexpensive car seat cover with a heating unit installed from Woolworths, it only cost me about £10/$15. Now, at flick of a switch I can warm myself up without it costing the earth or driving the rest of the family out of the house.
This thing is easily portable too, so you do have the opportunity to take it with you when visiting other's residences. I am sure friends and relations would not mind if you explain to them that this sensitivity is a genuine symptom of ARC and you do need it in order to keep your pain levels manageable.
There it is again, another true equation of our disease, cold + moisture = pain.
The unit I purchased also contains a couple of vibrator units, as a subsidiary benefit, in the seat and between the shoulder blades, both of which come in handy at times.
You might also have trouble bathing or showering because the water on your body cools at a faster pace than you can get yourself dry in. You may also be having trouble dressing and your body temperature drops as a result.
To combat this one of those bathroom heaters which fits into an ordinary light socket can warm the room before you bathe or shower. Again you could use the central heating sys tem to warm the room, but that is the expensive option. This way you keep yourself warm and keep the costs down.
We also need to get enough sleep, cold being a secondary result of being over-tired. An electric blanket on your bed can therefore help with three problems, the pain itself, the cold, and, lack of sleep because of the pain. I have found that a matress hugger is best because pain levels, after a busy day, can be reduce by the soothing warmth which also helps me get off to sleep. I also find that, on cold winter's mornings when I wake with numbness in my left leg, a quick blast of heat will help to get this moving again.
Some people have also find it beneficial to invest in a dehumidifier in whichever room they spend the most time in, day or night. High humidity levels do contribute towards higher pain levels in my experience. Therefore a portable unit is probably the best option so it can be moved into the bedroom at night.
To be frankly honest about this, it is one thing I have thought about but not tried yet, and, as we are in the middle of an experiment, I cannot do so right now because it would skew the results. So, if you do try this, please let us know what the results are.
That is about it for this subject but if you have any Tips or Tricks of your own, I would very much like to have you write them up and we can add them to the site with full recognition of where they came from. Unless you wish to remain anonymous and that is fine too.
© M.L.J.Feehan August 2003